10 Waterfront Playgrounds in NYC
After months of being stuck at home—or at least sticking to your home neighborhood—summer calls for adventure. It's easy to forget New Yorkers have miles of waterfront within city limits, so you don't have to go far to enjoy a cool breeze and beautiful water views. Even better, spend an afternoon at one of these 10 waterfront playgrounds and feel like you’ve escaped the city without ever leaving the five boroughs.
Find more fun places to play this season in our Guide to Parks and Playgrounds.
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1. Pelham Bay Park – Pelham Bay, the Bronx
Middletown Road and Stadium Avenue
The city’s largest park, you can easily spend a full day at this expansive, beautiful spot. Situated on natural wetlands, the park boasts something for everyone, including baseball fields, basketball courts, bocce courts, handball courts, hiking trails, a golf course, and tennis courts, in addition to three playgrounds. Stop by Orchard Beach Playground right off the beachfront or hit up Pelican Bay Playground, a sea-themed park with sprinklers and a large ship climbing structure—perfect for pretending to take to the high seas. Spend a little time among the greenery and then make your way to Orchard Beach, a 1.1-mile-long stretch of sand located on the Long Island Sound. When you need a break from the activities, you can whip up lunch at one of the park’s barbecue grills, grab food at one of the concession stands, or head to nearby City Island for a bite of seafood and a chill, New England vibe.
2. Seaside Wildlife Nature Park – Great Kills, Staten Island
Nelson Avenue and Tennyson Drive
Noted as one of Staten Island’s best playgrounds, this nautical-themed space taps into your child’s sense of adventure. They can pretend to sail the mighty seas while playing on the playground’s shipwreck-themed playscape, complete with a shark, lighthouse, and even a replica of the Staten Island Ferry. Don’t forget to bring your sand pails and shovels so the kids can get some playtime in the park’s sandpit before heading home. When you’ve tired of playground play, enjoy the tranquil surroundings of 20 acres of seaside walking paths and marshes. You’ll love the peaceful walk, and your kids will love exploring all the wildlife, trees, and plants that call it home.
The Yard is an adventurous playground for kids, but the no-adults rule makes some parents uneasy. Photo courtesy of The Yard
3. Governors Island – New York Harbor
If you’re looking for an all-day adventure, take the ferry to Governors Island to explore its 172 acres. In addition to enjoying a beautiful walk around the island to catch stunning water views, there are several places to play, including Slide Hill with its 57 foot-long, three-story slide and The Yard, NYC’s only adventure playground. This play area is a kids-only playground where kids use recycled materials to build and let their imaginations run wild.
4. Surf Playground – Coney Island, Brooklyn
2727 Surf Avenue
Just steps away from the Coney Island Boardwalk and the New York Aquarium sits Surf Playground. Take a break from the beach to cool off at the park’s water feature, or enjoy a ride on the Cyclone and then hit the slides—mild by comparison! Parents and kids alike will love that the spacious playground offers structures for all ages, as well as basketball courts. Nearby, you'll find the Coney Island Playground planted firmly in the beachfront sand. This simple play structure is great for the toddler crowd, and everyone gets a kick out of the palm tree sprinklers on a hot day.
Kids go crazy for the attractions at Pier 6, including Slide Mountain. Photo by Sara M.
5. Pier 6 Playgrounds – Brooklyn Bridge Park
Pier 6 off Furman Street
Nestled at the edge of the Columbia Waterfront District, this playground boasts four unique play areas: Slide Mountain, Swing Valley, Sandbox Village, and The Water Lab. Each playground is in a separate area, which means you can easily jump from one activity to another. When you need a break from play, take a moment to sit at one of the shaded benches along the main pathway or set up a picnic on the grassy area by the water where you can enjoy unobstructed views of Lower Manhattan. If you didn’t pack lunch, you can grab a quick bite at Fornino's. Bonus: Watch the ferries come and go for an extra slice of adventure.
6. Rockaway Park – Rockaway, Queens
Beach 3 Street to Beach 153 Street and Boardwalk to the Atlantic Ocean
The Rockaways offer many different playground options, but a favorite is this mile-long stretch playground that gives kids play options galore. The play space, rebuilt after Hurricane Sandy, includes a stretch of nets to climb, a huge sprayground perfect for cooling off after playing in the sand, and several play structures.
No matter the season or time of day, Domino Park is a stunning place to play. Photo by Jody Mercier
7. Domino Park – Williamsburg, Brooklyn
300 Kent Avenue
This 5-acre park has a playground built on the site of the old Domino Sugar Factory. Designed to take children through the sugar refining process, the playscape boasts winding slides, tunnels, and climbing structures. Bearing names like Sugar Cane Cabin and Sweetwater Silo, the structures were built to resemble different parts of the now-defunct factory. While the kids play, enjoy sweeping views of the East River and the Williamsburg Bridge, plus lunch and drinks from Tacocina.
8. Rockefeller Park Playground – Battery Park City, Manhattan
Battery Place between Vesey and Murray
Located just a short walk from Brookfield Place, this park just got a refresh. It offers many great play options, including a large set of swings, a rope climbing structure, elevated pathways, and a water feature. When you need a break from play, walk along the river and stop by the peaceful Lily Pool, where you can watch fish and ducks. Be sure to pack your lunch so you can sit in the grassy areas surrounding the park and enjoy a perfect picnic.
Owl's Head Park has an expansive playground with attractions for all ages. Photo courtesy NYC Parks/Daniel Avila
9. Owl’s Head Park – Bay Ridge, Brooklyn
Colonial Road and 68th Street
Nestled in the heart of Bay Ridge is the 24-acre Owl Head Park. Kids have the run of the large playground with separate little- and big-kid areas. There's a fun water feature, conveniently separated from the main play space. When you need a break from the action, enjoy a picnic in the large grassy area that makes up most of the park. From the top of the grassy hill, you can get a glimpse of the Statue of Liberty and the ships coming in and out of the harbor. Bonus: In the winter, the park’s rolling hill makes the perfect sledding spot.
The Imagination Playground offers sand, water, and plenty of sunshine. Photo by Jody Mercier
10. Imagination Playground – South Street Seaport
Front Street between John Street and South Street
Located in Lower Manhattan is this playground that will take your child’s imagination to the next level. Designed by David Rockwell, the play space gives children all the tools they need to build, explore, and create. The unique playground has giant foam blocks, mats, crates, and more to give kids literal building blocks to be as creative as their heart's desire. Parents can watch the kids play from shaded seating areas while taking in the water and boat views at the South Street Seaport.
Places featured in this article:
Pelham Bay Park
Seaside Wildlife Nature Playground
Brooklyn Bridge Park
Owl's Head Park